Public Safety on Hold as New Truck Rules Lack Enforcement
The December 2017 deadline is looming for all big rigs to have electronic driver logs, but with no enforcement plan, safety is on hold in Houston and around America.
For decades the temptation for truck drivers to drive more hours than allowed by law was made easier with paper log books that could easily be falsified, leading to fatigues drivers and more 18 wheeler accidents. Electronic logs that monitor the truck’s systems make cheating harder, and total conversion by carriers must be complete by this December. But one thing is lacking: an adequate enforcement system.
Rules With No Accountability
Trucks.com reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is lagging in providing training instructions to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which will be tasked with training for roadside inspectors of electronic logs. Duane DeBruyne, spokesman for the FMCSA said this past July that training will begin this fall and is on track. But drivers and trade organizations have seen no sign of it.
“We’ve not seen any indication from law enforcement that they are ready,” said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which counts more than 150,000 drivers as members.
If the enforcement infrastructure is not in place to verify compliance, it leaves room for continued cheating by drivers exceeding the allowable hours on the road, perpetuating a huge safety hazard.
“It is likely that the information will be given to the states, who will then be responsible for training their inspectors. But the details have not been finalized at this point,” said Adrienne Gildea, deputy executive director for CVSA.
The FMCSA has already come under fire from the Government Accountability Office, an agency of the U.S. Congress, for failure to update key technology systems, contributing to the inadequate training for the electronic log systems enforcement.
Coupled with the Trump Administration scrapping a rule requiring truckers to undergo evaluation for sleep apnea, it is clear that the federal government is foot dragging on keeping fatigued truck drivers off the nation’s roads.
Asleep at the Wheel of a Behemoth
A 2006 study by the federal Department of Transportation estimated that 13 percent of big rig accidents involved driver fatigue, which was a dramatically reduced estimate from a 1990 study citing 31 percent. But the reality is almost certainly higher than either of these figures, since drivers involved in accidents keep mum about fatigue, lest they be found at fault.
The ABC News program 20/20 rode along with highway patrol officers citing trucker safety violations, and discussed the deadly consequences of fatigued driving.
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